Gardening in a Flood

As gardeners, frequent and heavy winter rains can sometimes spur contradictory thoughts. We all know we need the rain. But does it have to come pounding down at once, wreaking havoc on our gardens in many forms?

I for once have had a rough week tending to my new ½ acre in Cotati where I have both thousands of peonies planted, and a new (costly) high tunnel erected that holds thousands of dollars of ranunculus and anemone plants. Peonies hate to sit in water, and that’s just what they’ve been doing for the past few weeks. Upon returning from a long vacation, I arrived back at my field to see water filling the pathways of my raised beds, almost reaching the bed tops which sit about a foot high. In some areas the water was running off and in others it just had nowhere to go.

Trying not to panic, I surveyed my options. My landlord and I decided that when it dries out in spring we can dig a long drainage ditch along the side of the property, which will hopefully channel all excess water towards the lower spots in the property. I can also continue building the soil by adding organic matter, doing whatever I can to turn the ground into a big, absorbent sponge.

But all these things come later. For now, I got to pumping. I was lucky to find that my landlord had a little garden pump that I could submerge in some of the deepest pools that had formed, and pump water 300’ feet away to the other side of the property. It seemed to work!

What strategies do you all use to protect your garden from flooding rains? Here are some great resources to look into.

Here’s some information to get you started thinking about drainage tile and whether it could help your property drain.

Got swales? Here’s a great resource that shows off some different swale applications.

It’s a great idea to start thinking about how and why your property floods. Here’s a good starting point. For more on flood prevention in your landscaping, check out this helpful article.

One thought on “Gardening in a Flood

  1. Since I moved into my Santa Rosa home six years ago, the back yard (about 5,000sf) has been a giant mud puddle every winter. Not fun when I need to care for my chickens. But in October we decided to start preparations for a permaculture food-forest, which we kicked off by bringing in around 200 cubic yards of woodchips. (Free, courtesy of an arborist.) Lots of work wheelbarrowing multiple truckloads from the front driveway to the backyard, weaving around a dozen fruit trees (which we planted the first few years), the compost bins, the five raised beds and the chickens. What a difference! No more squelching through mud; now we pad softly through a soft, spongey carpet of woodchips, with not a puddle in sight. Looking forward to seeing if it cuts down on watering this summer.

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